Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting KC | MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Championship Preview

HOUSTON DYNAMO v SPORTING KANSAS CITY
EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP - FIRST LEG
Sat., Nov. 9, BBVA Compass Stadium (1:30 p.m. CT; NBC; UDN; RDS2)

For the third time in three seasons, the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City will meet in the MLS Cup Playoffs, when they face off in the Eastern Conference Championship. The Dynamo will host the first leg at BBVA Compass Stadium after defeating the Supporters' Shield-winning New York Red Bulls 2-1 in extra time in the second leg of their semifinal series, winning 4-3 on aggregate. Sporting also claimed their semifinal series 4-3 on aggregate, overcoming a first-leg advantage with a 3-1 extra-time victory against the New England Revolution at midweek.

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REFEREE: Kevin Stott; AR1 (bench): Gregory Barkey; AR2 (opposite): Adam Wienckowski; 4th: Chris Penso
SUSPENDED: HOU: Corey Ashe (caution accumulation; through Nov. 10)
WARNINGS (suspended next yellow card): HOU: Boniek Garcia ... KC: Seth Sinovic, Teal Bunbury, Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers

Get Tickets: Eastern Conference Final Leg 1, Saturday, Nov. 9, Kansas City at Houston (Use promo code: MLSPLAYOFF3)

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: HOU 6 wins, 22 goals … KC 4 wins, 19 goals … Ties 8
2013 HEAD-TO-HEAD: HOU 0 wins, 1 GF … KC 1 win, 2 GF … Ties 2
AT BBVA COMPASS STADIUM:
5/12: HOU 0, KC 1 (Collin 73)
10/9: HOU 0, KC 0
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: HOU 3 wins, 6 GF … KC 1 win, 1 GF … 0 ties

HOUSTON DYNAMO

READ: Five games in 14 days? Houston say they'll rest in the offseason

  • For the third time in club history, the Dynamo will face Kansas City with a trip to MLS Cup on the line. The Dynamo won both previous meetings, in single-game conference championships (2007, 2011); they also defeated Sporting in the conference semifinals a year ago (2-1 on aggregate).
  • "We just try to win a game, to be honest," said head coach Dominic Kinnear. "There were a lot of chances coming the other way, and Tally [Hall] made some huge saves and some great last-line defending. We try not to think too much about it, we just try to win games and move on to the next round."
  • After committing the gaffe that led to the opening goal, Tally Hall was credited with seven saves in the second leg, the most he's made in a postseason game since a club record 10 saves in a 2011 match vs. Philadelphia.
  • “He’s not going to go and hide. We need him,” Kinnear said. “He knows that, and he showed up afterwards. It didn’t bug him at all.” Said center back Bobby Boswell: “I just said, ‘Hey, we’ll pick you up,’ and luckily we were kind of gifted a goal. After that, Tally stood on his head. Yeah, he makes that mistake, but he also saves some balls that probably nobody else does.”
  • Omar Cummings made just 11 appearances in the regular season, one as a starter, and did not score a goal. But he now has two goals in two substitute appearances in the postseason.
  • “Credit to Omar for scoring two big goals,” Boswell said. “Kind of comes out of nowhere from the beginning of the year to the playoffs. It’s a great time to start thriving.” Said Kinnear: “I was just trying to break their line of pressure and the best way we were doing that was to probably getting [Boniek Garcia] on the ball in the middle. So we pushed him in there and I think our attack was a little bit more together. We dropped in Omar to go to that 4-5-1, but still wanted Omar to join the attack too, which he did well.”
  • Brad Davis scored his first goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs since Nov. 2, 2007, when he netted against FC Dallas on the run to the Dynamo's second MLS Cup title. “This time of the year, you can’t just commit to playing pretty soccer. Do you want to win or do you want to play pretty?” Davis said. “We’d love to play pretty and win all the time, but you also realize that’s not going to happen. You’ve got to be willing to adapt, and guys are willing to get out of their comfort zones and do what you have to do to win games.”

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

READ: SKC offer few surprises in onslaught of New England Revolution

  • Sporting unleashed 32 total attempts at goal – the second-most ever in an MLS Cup Playoffs game (FC Dallas took 37 shots in a 2005 game vs. Colorado).
  • "We said no matter what the other team does, we're going to play this way and we are going to take certain situations into our own hands and we are going to make sure that we force things to happen the way we want them to and that's a credit to the players," said Sporting manager Peter Vermes.
  • Seth Sinovic has not scored a goal in 102 career regular season games. But he has two goals in seven postseason matches, after netting the vital series equalizer. "It's a lot more fun scoring in the playoffs, not that I know what it feels like to score in the regular season," Sinovic said. " ... It's unbelievable to score a goal like that, and unbelievable to keep us in the playoffs and hopefully there's more to come."
  • Aurelien Collin scored for the second consecutive match. Four of Sporting's last five postseason goals have come from defenders.
  • Claudio Bieler was not in the 18-man squad for the first leg, his last goal coming Sept. 7 (and his last from open play coming on July 13). But he scored the vital goal that again sent SKC to the conference final.
  • "Him going on and finding his right place on the field during a couple of those situations were huge for us," Vermes said. "He is what he is: a goal scorer. And it's great to see him get confidence on that goal because we need him down the stretch here."
  • Benny Feilhaber returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 27. "I thought he was very good on both sides of the ball and I thought possession wise he helped us a great deal. One of the things we wanted to do was move the ball around and move it around quickly," Vermes said. "He was excellent in position and that helped to keep the ball and make them have to chase us so he was good as well."
  • Paulo Nagamura was also in the first team for the first time since Sept. 7. "He's an absolute warrior and he's something that we've been missing for a long time in the middle of the midfield and it's great to have him back out there because he really is an important player in our group and in the way we play," Vermes said.